By: Matt Setlack
This article will describe the amazing week that I spent in Italy with Adrian Lambert and Matt Travaglini in between World Mountain Running Championships on 30 Jul 2017 and Long Course World Mountain Running Championships on 06 Aug 2017.
Mon 31 Jul 2017
This was the day right after World Mountain Running Championships (and the subsequent post-race party). I woke up early and didn't feel amazing after the incredible post-race party last night. It was so much fun. Like more fun than I have had in years. Amazing! So awesome hanging out with awesome people!
We took a bus back to Milan Malpensa (MXP) airport in the morning and rented a Fiat Panda rental car. We didn't really know where we were going as we had not made any plans. However, we did know that we wanted to head to the Dolomites in northern Italy so we drove in that general direction.
We drove east, on a toll highway where the speed limit was 130 kph, from Milan MXP for 200km (almost to Verona) then turned north towards Trento and then Bolzano (about 200km more). We arrived at our hotel in Nova Levante (SE of Bolzano in the mountains) around dinner time. Went for a short forest trail run in the mountains and then we had dinner at the hotel. This area of Italy is more Austrian/German than Italian. Most people seem to speak German and the beer is generally German beer, which is fine by me because my favourite beer is weissbier (wheat beer).
When we woke up each morning, we did not know where we would be sleeping that night. Our typical daily schedule was, wake up, find a place to do an amazing trail run, find a place to stay, and then go and do it. Very little planning went into it. We just went with the flow and were totally relaxed.
Tues 01 Aug 2017
We drove east to the Rosengarten, which are the traditional/proper Dolomites (the pointy mountains that you see in photos). Adrian, MattT and I started out for a run to the highest point we could find on the map (about 3,000m ASL). MattT was forced to turn around after 45 minutes due to a hamstring issue while Adrian and I pushed on. There were a lot of tourist buses that passed us and hoards of tourists between the first hut (Rifugio Gardeccia) and second hut (Rifugio Vajolet) but they thinned out towards the third hut later on in the day. We ran to the third hut (Grasleitenpasshutte at 2,601m ASL) in about 2:15 then I carried on to the summit of the Kesselkogel at 3,002m ASL. The last 30 mins were via ferrata and I think you were technically supposed to have a harness and two lanyards to clip into the thick cable in case you slipped, then you would not die. I would definitely use that (if I had the kit) if the weather was poor, slippery or snowy but the conditions for me were perfect (dry, sunny, warm, +25C) and it was an easy scramble (easier than Lady Macdonald). Maybe like the top of Grotto Mountain but with fixed hardware/cables. The via ferrata hardware made it feel mentally harder than it actually was. After about 2:45, I arrived at the Kesselkogel, the highest mountain of the Rosengarten group in the Dolomites in South Tyrol, Italy. It is 3,004m ASL. I passed 1 person on the way up and then 5 people near the summit who were going down. I passed the 5 again on the way down. They were all wearing harnesses but I didn't see a single person actually clipped into the cables. Strange.
I ran/aggressively hiked back down to the 3rd hut (Grasleitenpasshutte at 2,601m ASL) and had lunch with Adrian (dumpling soup, 2 coca-colas, 1 water, 1 chocolate) and the bill came to 26 euro. Really expensive but also really nice to have the full service huts!
This day we ended up running about 28km with 1,700m of elevation gain in about 4 hours of running (5 hours total). We then drove to Canazei and stayed in a hotel there. We went out for dinner at an Italian/German restaurant and I ate pizza this time. Italian food is probably my favourite food in the world.
Wed 02 Aug 2017
Today we decided to run up to the highest peak in the area that we could find on a map. Adrian, MattT and I started at the base of a lift in the town of Delba Alba and ran up to top of Col Ombert at 2,670m ASL via the Val de Contrin. The elevation gain was about 1,200m and distance was around 19km total. Really enjoyable run. Super runnable for almost all of it.
Around dinner time we drove to the Bolzano central train station to drop MattT off so he could take a train back to Milan MXP because he was flying out the next morning. Adrian and I were going back to the Long Course race (Giir di Mont) on 06 Aug 2017. Adrian and I then drove to this beautiful postcard-like Italian hill side town called Coredo. The B&B where we stayed was amazing. There were vineyards everywhere.
Thurs 03 Aug 2017
Adrian and I had an amazing breakfast at our B&B and then drove to a lake called Lago di Molveno relatively close to Trento, Italy.
Lago di Molveno was really nice place but also really touristy. Adrian did a mountain run up to a hut with an elevation gain of about 500m and I deliberately ran along the lake shore as it was relatively flat, since I had a world championship long course race coming up in three days, while Adrian did not. The temperature was around +35C but in the shade and low ground, it was considerably cooler.
After the run, we drove back to a hotel near Milan MXP. The temperature on the way there was +38.5C and near Milan it was +40.0C. We were very glad that we had air conditioning in the car. Sticking your hand out the car window felt like sticking your hand in the oven.
Overall, running in the Italian Dolomites with MattT and Adrian was incredible. According to my Strava account, we ended up running 4,466m of elevation gain in the 4 days we were in northern Italy. Trail running in the mountains with friends is one of my favourite things to do and I'm so happy that the trip worked out so well.
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
- John Muir